How To Make A Classic 3-2-1 Margarita

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Learning how to make a classic margarita is as easy as counting to three, or 3-2-1! If you’re looking for a recipe for the perfect margarita, this is it. A classic 3-2-1 margarita is all about ratio.

A proper margarita is based on the 3-2-1 ratio of tequila, orange liqueur, (good triple sec, Grand Marnier, or Cointreau), and lime juice. It is not frozen, but rather, served on the rocks. Some people sweeten classic margaritas with a bit of simple syrup or agave nectar. I prefer a small amount of simple syrup in mine, and I also like to add a bit of lime zest. If you like. yours on the sour side, add less simple syrup.

Margaritas in clear glasses.

Here in sunny Southern California, limes are 10 for a buck, so it’s a pretty easy summer-time drink. A salted rim of the glass is optional. As long as you adhere to the 3-2-1 ratio you can make a single serving, or a pitcher of margaritas! (This post was originally published on May 3rd, 2015. As an Amazon Affiliate, I earn commission on qualifying purchases.)

What’s the best tequila to use for margaritas?

Use the best quality tequila you can afford and one that you enjoy. There are several types of tequila, and if you’re tequila aficionado, you’ll already have a favorite tequila or two. Blanco tequila is a younger tequila that’s aged for up to two months, and is great in mixed drinks. Whereas reposado tequila is aged longer, often in oak whiskey barrels for a richer woodier flavor. I prefer silver or white tequila for margaritas. Here’s more information about the different types of tequila.

juicing limes.

Use fresh lime juice!

This is not the time to use Margarita mix or frozen lime juice or worse yet, Rose’s lime juice in a bottle, you just won’t get the same results. Fresh lime juice, top-quality tequila, good-tasting triple sec, and simple syrup to taste are all you need for this classic margarita recipe. You can buy an entire bag of limes from Costco for less than what a sugar and corn syrup filled Margarita mix will cost. If you’re having a party, juice the limes ahead of time. I use this inexpensive electric juicer for citrus fruit if I’m planning on juicing a lot of limes or this hand held juicer if I make just one or two margaritas.

What’s Triple Sec?

Triple Sec is an orange based liqueur originally from Curaçao. For a great margarita, make sure you don’t buy generic triple sec. Cointreau or Pierre Ferrand are excellent triple sec brands. Grand Marnier while also an orange liqueur, is brandy based. Here’s an article for more about the differences between Curaçao and triple sec.

vertical margarita in a glass.

How do you make a “Cadillac” Margarita?

A classic Margarita is made with aged tequila, triple sec (see above), and fresh lime juice. To make a Cadillac Margarita, simple substitute Grand Marnier for the triple sec.

How do you make a “Skinny” Margarita?

The best part about making homemade Margaritas, and not using pre-mixed or sugar filled mixers is that you can control the amount of sweetness. Instead of making the simple syrup with sugar, substitute Swerve. or another sweetener. Traditionally agave nectar is used. When you’re using top quality tequila, Cointreau or Grand Marnier, you’ll find you don’t need much more than a teaspoon or two of simple syrup to sweeten your Margarita. If it’s too sweet, you’ll lose the other flavors.

How do you make simple syrup?

Here’s the skinny from my neice, who owns two restaurants and a “mixologist” on retainer. Contrary to popular opinion, simple syrup is not a 1-1 ratio of sugar to water, but rather 2-1. The reason? It makes a more highly concentrated sweetener and will not water down a cocktail.

Bring 2 parts sugar and 1 part water to a boil in a saucepan. Stir until sugar dissolves. Turn off heat and allow it to cool. Store in the fridge for up to a week.

Ingredients for a 3-2-1 margarita

6 ounces of tequila (3 parts)

4 ounces orange liqueur (2 parts )(triple sec, Grand Marnier or Cointreau

2 ounces fresh lime juice (1 part)

2 Tablespoons Simple syrup or agave nectar (or to taste)

Kosher or coarse salt for rims of glasses

lime slice for garnish

Optional: zest of lime

lime juice.

How to make a 3-2-1 margarita

measuring out lime juice.

  • Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, mix 3 parts tequila, 2 parts orange liqueur and 1 part lime juice, simple syrup, to taste and zest of one lime, if desired. Shake well.

measuring the tequila.

  • Rub a lime wedge around the rim of a rocks glass.
  • Coat rim with kosher salt. Fill glass with ice.

salting the rim of the glass.

Filing the glasses with margarita.

One of the best parties I’ve ever thrown and one that friends ask for a do-over, is a “Make Your Own Margarita Party”. It’s a fun way to get guests involved and they can experiment with all sorts of flavor combinations from blueberry lavender to strawberry basil and mango jalapeno.

How to throw the perfect make your own margarita party!

For fruit margaritas, I still follow the traditional 3-2-1 ratio, but add fruit, herbs or spices to the cocktail shaker and muddle the ingredients before proceeding. Not a fan or lime? Try a fresh Lemon Margarita.

two lemon margaritas on a cutting board.

Looking for more Mexican dishes?

Tacos al Carbon

Tacos al carbon.

Turkey Enchiladas

Cheesey Turkey enchiladas.

Enchilada Casserole

Enchilada casserole with green sauce.

Cilantro Rice

ciantro rice small.

Salsa Fresca

Salsa fresca.
Salsa fresca.
Margaritas in clear glasses.

How To Make A Classic 3-2-1 Margarita

A classic margarita, served on the rocks. Recipe slightly adapted from (Nutritional value is for agave syrup)
4.98 from 98 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Course Alcohol
Cuisine Mexican
Servings 3 servings
Calories 296 kcal


  • 6 ounces tequila 3 parts
  • 4 ounces orange liqueur 2 parts (triple sec, Grand Marnier or Cointreau
  • 2 ounces fresh lime juice 1 part
  • 2 Tablespoons Simple syrup or agave nectar (or to taste)
  • Kosher salt for rims of glasses
  • Fresh lime slices for garnish
  • Optional: zest of lime


  • FIll a cocktail shaker with ice. Mix 3 parts tequila, 2 parts orange liqueur and 1 part lime juice, simple syrup, to taste and zest of one lime, if desired. Shake well.
  • Rub a wedge of lime around the rim of a rocks glass. Coat rim with kosher salt. Fill glasses with ice.
  • Strain margaritas into glasses and garnish with lime slices.


  • Use the above ratio to make a pitcher or a single margarita.
  • Fresh lime juice is best.
  • Coarse or kosher salt is best for lining the rim of the glasses.


Serving: 1servingCalories: 296kcalCarbohydrates: 24gProtein: 0.1gFat: 0.2gSaturated Fat: 0.04gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.04gMonounsaturated Fat: 0.01gSodium: 5mgPotassium: 35mgFiber: 0.1gSugar: 22gVitamin A: 9IUVitamin C: 8mgCalcium: 3mgIron: 0.1mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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  1. I’m pretty sure I’ve commented on this recipe before, but I couldn’t find it! My recipe is 1-1-1. I don’t feel the simple syrup is needed when you use an equal amount of orange liqueur, and I like the zing of more lime juice. This sunday I’ll try it your way just for fun!

  2. 4 stars
    As somebody whose favorite cocktail is a Margarita…I’ve tried every variation & ratio. The only 2 I ever recommend are 3 equal parts or 3-2-1. The biggest key in all honesty to a good/great margarita is your Orange Liqueur. If you don’t have enough in your Margarita, you will have 1 nasty bitter Margarita. This is a very good recipe.

4.98 from 98 votes (80 ratings without comment)

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